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Safer greetings in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 Prevention

“Social distancing” and reducing physical contact are important for slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 (learn more from the World Health Organization (WHO), US Center for Disease Control (CDC)).

Since Novasutras gatherings that are not just online are mostly outside, we can continue to gather provided we use a little extra caution when gathering in person.

Remember: the most important and effective things to do are to
1. maintain social distancing as much as possible, act as if you are already contagious (you might very well be) and avoid contact
2. stay home if you think you are ill (call a doctor to discuss your symptoms, and do get immediate medical help if you are having trouble breathing), and
3. wash your hands frequently and thoroughly (soap is very effective against the virus).
WHO recommends that people stay at least 3 feet (1 meter) from others who may carry the virus and are coughing or sneezing (CDC advises 6 feet of separation).

Safer Greetings of Agaya & Ubuntu

We’ve made a short video illustrating some alternatives to hugs and handshakes, that can allow us to keep our distance physically while acknowledging our emotional and spiritual connections.

A quick review of two gestures for greeting without touching:
1. “Namaste” (anjali mudra) 2. Heart Connection
For good social distancing, it is best to stay about 2 meters (6 feet) apart (farther than demonstrated).

We recorded the video at our Climate and Habitat meditation and demonstration at Lighthouse Field in Santa Cruz, California on March 8th, 2020. Special thanks to Erik for operating the camera, and to Bob, Tyler, Nancy, Paul, and Leoma for participating. 

A Novasutras convention is to use “agaya and ubuntu” in greeting or opening, and “ubuntu and agaya” in closings or farewells.

Namaste & Anjali Mudra (hands in prayer)

When greeting anyone, you may put your hands together, just in front of (or with your thumbs just touching) your sternum (breastbone). You can then bow slightly to the person and say “Namaste” or “Agaya and Ubuntu” as a greeting, and again “Namaste” or “Ubuntu and Agaya” as a farewell gesture when parting. The more literal translation of “Namaste” is “I bow to the divine in you” (references: learnreligions.com and merriam-webster.com).

This gesture of salutation is common in the religions that originated in India (particularly Hinduism), and is now found throughout Asia. It is common at the end of yoga classes, and has become widespread among secular yoga practitioners.  It is now being recommended around the world as an alternative to handshakes (onlymyhealth.com).

Heart Connection

This is an adaptation of a gesture from Southeast Asia. Sometimes, people would touch their heart after a handshake to acknowledge the sincerity of their greeting (lifeinbigtent.com). But (particularly where it was considered improper to touch a member of the opposite gender) this gesture of touching one’s own heart with the left hand, while extending the right hand toward your companion’s heart, seems to emphasize the closeness of spirit while keeping some physical distance. Now that we may wish to avoid touching anyone (except those unavoidable few in our immediate family), it is prudent to use a gesture like this to express our love and fond connections. 

This gesture could be appropriate when parting from anyone with whom you’ve developed a connection. It could also be used in greeting close friends, similar to a hug.

What gestures most resonate with you? What else are you doing to stay safe while abiding in ubuntu and agaya?

Updated with latest recommendations on March 16th.
See https://youtu.be/dSQztKXR6k0 for a useful overview of why immediate changes to reduce the virus spread are so important.

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  1. Certain Sufis use the gesture of touching their right hand to their heart in greeting another, along with a nod/bow.

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